Pushing buttons that may destroy life

The Court of Appeals has voted to uphold funding for embryonic stem cell research, but are they in effect paying people to kill people?

Emily Sidnam, Writer

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed to continue federal funding of the human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research that was recently banned by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth. The government will continue providing money for hESC research until a final verdict is made on whether or not federal funding for this will continue.

I agree with Lamberth’s decision that federal funding for hESC research should be banned. The temporary funding that was approved will help save hESC research that is already in progress, but I believe that funding should be cut completely until the case is finalized. Our government would be acting with ethical prudence if it upheld the ban on funding hESC research.

What if someone comes to you and hands you a detonating device. They give you two options: you can press the button on the detonator, or you can leave it alone.

If you decide not to press the button, nothing will happen. If you do press the button, there are two possible outcomes: either nothing will happen, or a person somewhere in the world will drop dead. You have no idea which of the two options will become a reality. All you know is that if you press the button, someone might die as a result.

So, what should you do? I think we would agree that the ethical thing to do would be to decide not to touch the button at all. It’s the only option that guarantees no human life will be lost.

If the government decides to overthrow the ban and continue funding embryonic stem cell research, they will be paying people to press the button.

The Harvard Stem Cell Institute explains on their website that the only known way to obtain embryonic stem cells involves the destruction of an embryo at the sixth to eighth day of development.

To this day, the vitally important question of whether or not human life begins at conception is still unresolved in the mind of the scientific community. So, hESC research may be doing no harm, but it is also just as likely that a human being is destroyed each time an embryo is torn apart.

It is concerns like these which caused our government to create the Dickey-Wicker act in 1996 which bans federal funding of, “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.” Judge Lamberth made his decision to ban federal funding of hESC research in light of this law.

I strongly believe that we should maintain and uphold this law until we know for certain that hESC research is not putting a human life in danger.

Many people argue that hESC research is justified because lives could be saved with its findings. That may be true, but as far as we know, many unborn lives could be lost in the process as well.

At first, embryonic stem cells were thought to be more pluripotent than adult stem cells, meaning that they can re-create cells found in all types of tissues. Thus, hESC research was advocated above other lines of stem cell research. But, Time Magazine’s “Healthland” published an article on Sept. 30 that contradicts this belief. Journalist Alice Park reports that, last Thursday, researcher Dr. Derrick Rossi and his colleagues at the Children’s Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute announced a major breakthrough with induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. iPS cells can be generated from any type of cell — even skin cells — and can then be reprogrammed to have the same pluripotent qualities of an embryo. This new breakthrough creates viable iPS cells. Adult stem cell research has the same potential as hESC research and is actually the only line of stem cell research that has produced usable results so far.

We need to stop pushing buttons and put our focus on saving people of all shapes, sizes, and stages of life.

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